'Skyfall' expected to surpass 'Twilight' in fourth frame

A holdover horse race should keep B.O. observers awake during the typically tepid post-Thanksgiving frame.

Leading the charge in the high teens is Sony-MGM’s “Skyfall,” which is expected to edge past Summit’s “Twilight” finale, “Breaking Dawn — Part 2″ to claim a second Stateside victory in its fourth frame.

In addition to the healthy holdovers, this weekend has another advantage — two wide releases, however modest — over last year’s, when there were none.

Bowing today, the Weinstein Co.’s Brad Pitt starrer “Killing Them Softly” should gross $10 million with a possible low-teens upside. Start-up distrib LD Entertainment, meanwhile, launches torture-porn horror pic “The Collection,” with expectations topping out in the $5 million range.

Last weekend, “Skyfall” tallied just $8 million less than “Twilight,” which grossed $43.6 million in three days. The James Bond pic should close the gap, down 50% or so, as “Twilight” pics tend to drop more than that in repeat frames. “Breaking Dawn — Part 1,” for instance, fell 60% this same frame last year, with $16.5 million.

“Skyfall” has collected $225 million domestically and counting; “Part 2″ hit $235 million Stateside through Nov. 28.

Entering their second outings, DreamWorks Animation’s “Rise of the Guardians” and Fox’s “Life of Pi” each should gross somewhere in the low-to-mid teens. “Rise” bowed last weekend via Paramount earning a disappointing $23.8 million in three days, while “Pi” exceeded expectations with $22.5 million. Both films received positive CinemaScores.

It’s an especially important weekend for “Rise” as Par expands the film to some 50 overseas territories throughout most of Europe and elsewhere. The $145 million-budgeted toon will rely heavily on Europe and Latin America, where its holiday-themed characters are most known. “Rise” struggled in China, for instance, earning just $4 million through Nov. 25. Pic’s earned $14 million from nine markets, of which Russia is the largest contributor so far.

This weekend marks the beginning of a two-week lull at the domestic box office, before Warner Bros. launches “The Hobbit” on Dec. 14.

Weinstein moved “Killing Them Softly” around the calendar several times before settling on this weekend. Originally, the distrib planned to release “Killing” on Sept. 21, but then moved the film to Oct. 19. The pic’s calendar re-shuffling suggests that Weinstein struggled with how to handle the stylized gangster film. The November date positioned “Killing” as a more visible awards contender, though Weinstein has been preoccupied lately with “Silver Linings Playbook.”

Directed by Andrew Dominik, “Killing Them Softly” stars Pitt, Richard Jenkins and James Gandolfini. Pic premiered at this year’s Cannes Film Fest.

Marcus Dunstan’s “The Collection,” about a group of mercenaries tracking down a young woman taken by a psychopathic killer, had its world premiere in September at Fantastic Fest. “Collection” marks the second release for LD Entertainment after launching NC-17 pic “Killer Joe” this summer.

Focus Features hopes to gain traction with “Anna Karenina” this weekend, expanding the film to more than 380 locations in its third frame. Last weekend, the film averaged a solid $13,580 from 66 Stateside engagements. Pic’s cumed nearly $2 million domestically and counting.

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